October Equus – Presagios

October Equus – Presagios

The return of this fine Spanish band after a six year gap from the superb Isla Purgatorio is as welcome as it is surprising, given that the band released two albums in 2013, and then nothing. Composer Ángel Ontalva has not exactly been resting in the interim, as the many releases on the Bandcamp page testifies, but having spent a lot of time in recent years in St. Petersburg, it is maybe not surprising that October Equus drifted for a while. Other than appearing on at least one of Ángel’s solo albums, and his work on the other October Equus releases, I know nothing of the activities of his co-composer in the group, Víctor Manuel Rodríguez Lopez, and would be delighted to know more!

Suffice to say, the pair of them have produced a top quality set of fascinating RIO-inclined chamber-rock music, crammed with compositional twists and turns, and as many weird time signatures as even the most demanding lover of serious music could wish for. And yes, this is serious music, but the furrowed brows are often made to relax by instrumental interjections of pure joy. The first subtle appearance of an electric guitar as a lead instrument towards the end of the fourth track is one such moment that raises an eyebrow, after the bamboozling complexity of the instrumental interplay that preceded it.

Taking that fourth track Estelas as a cue, the guitar is more prominent on Ceniza, the closest the album gets to “heavy”, in any real sense of the word. A dark mood descends on the following Neo, which features some wonderful deliberately understated drumming. These three tracks sum up the variety and huge scope of this sublime record, during which the simple yet highly effective combination of the seven instruments listed create a highly engaging ensemble for your ears to wrap themselves around.

Presagios translates as “Omens”, and the record transmits that mood perfectly, without ever falling into cliché. I suppose some may describe this as “avant rock”, but don’t let that put you off, as anyone who appreciates music as art, as something that demands a bit more from the listener than singing along to a hook line, or headbanging to a riff, will be more than satisfied with this record.

As we know, all the best bands have a bassoon somewhere in the line-up, and this one is no exception. Secrag is Henry Cow without the wilful difficulty, not that it’s easy listening, but I am sure you’ll get my drift, should you take the plunge to buy the album. As with all their releases, they only feature a couple of tracks in full on the Bandcamp page, but opening track Pneuma, and the title track Presagio should give you a good idea.

Do avant bands have fun? Well, Céfiro sounds almost playful to me, as the guitar and bass jump about like a bag of crickets. Some fine bassoon work leads this merry prankster of a tune out the door and down the winding path. Occasionally, I’m put in mind of the Hatfields, as well as Henry Cow, but October Equus have their own sound, one that they have forged over 15 years, and the musicians all know their way around their instruments, and each other. For while there is a definite RIO flavour running through this band, they remain highly listenable, at least to my strange-flavoured ears!

Presagios is a work of high professional standards, and there is a large helping of humanity too, which makes it such an engaging listen. A late entry of for my end-of-year list, without question! Incidentally, if you enjoy Presagios, then you will definitely like the album Permafrost, and the heavier Isla Purgatorio, the latter performed by a stripped-back quartet version of the band, with just guitar and sax for the top line. Get digging!

01. Pneuma (4:28)
02. Intermitencias (3:39)
03. Singular (2:07)
04. Estelas (3:26)
05. Ceniza (2:50)
06. Ígneo (4:50)
07. Oculto (1:54)
08. Presagio (4:48)
09. Secrag (2:10)
10. Céfiro (5:43)
11. Sombra (5:41)

Total Time – 41:36

Yolanda Alba Rodríguez – Flute
John Falcone – Bassoon
Pablo Ortega – Cello
Piotr Talalay – Drums
Víctor Rodríguez – Keyboards
Amanda Pazos Cosse – Bass
Ángel Ontalva – Guitar

Record Label: OctoberXArt Productions
Country of Origin: Spain
Date of Release: 15th October 2019

October Equus – Facebook | Bandcamp